What Happens to Your Stuff on RootsWeb When You Are No Longer Able to Manage It?

By Joan Young

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 9 April 2008, Vol. 11, No. 14

Family history researchers are acutely aware of the importance of preserving their family’s information. We wish our ancestors had left us a better paper trail. But are we doing the same for those that follow us?During my time working with RootsWeb, I handled many cases where users were moved to a nursing home, became disabled, passed on, or for one reason or another became unable to manage their information on RootsWeb. It’s important to make provisions now for someone to manage your information when you no longer can. Doing so will save your family, and fellow researchers, lots of time and effort.


Your information will remain on the site unless you or a legal heir or guardian requests that it be removed. Notes can be added to some information to let researchers know you can no longer be contacted. Or, you may wish to pass on the care of certain accounts and information to a relative or friend.

Whatever course of action you decide on, leave instructions in your will or simply prepare a separate letter of instruction for your heirs or chosen guardians.


Our RootsWeb-hosted Web pages and WorldConnect family trees represent hours of work gathered together in one spot.

Some may want these removed when the time comes, but most of us will probably want RootsWeb to preserve our data for future researchers. There may be information that could later be disproved or added to; even so, our research can provide a base for others to build upon. WorldConnect provides the Post-em Note feature for this purpose.

And, unlike other hosting services that require renewal and payment, RootsWeb will continue to maintain our data for free for the foreseeable future.

Leave your user code and password for heirs if you want them to delete your family tree or manage the file for you. If they are going to accept responsibility for communication about the tree, have them update it with their current e-mail address.

Or, you can have them contact RootsWeb Support to add a note to the file indicating that the submitter is deceased and can no longer be contacted. To contact RootsWeb Support, click the Help tab at the top of any RootsWeb page; then, select the “Email RootsWeb Support” tab.

WorldConnect file with a note showing that the owner has passed away.

Mailing list archives and old posts on message boards should not be of concern; archived messages represent what transpired on a given date and neither the information nor the contact address need to be current for the messages to be of value to future researchers.

However, if you are subscribed to a mailing list, you may want to have these services discontinued, especially if a spouse or other family member continues to use your e-mail address but does not wish to receive mail from RootsWeb. They may contact RootsWeb Support to globally remove the e-mail address from all mailing lists.

If you subscribe to alerts for new posts to message boards, your family member can simply hit reply to the e-mail notification and the address will be unsubscribed from all board alerts.


If you are a RootsWeb administrator, you should provide instructions for your heirs or guardians to contact RootsWeb Support if you are unable to continue your administrative duties.


If you have a RootsWeb public profile at My Account, you may wish to instruct your heirs to ask RootsWeb Support to put a message in the “About Me” section of your profile explaining that you are no longer able to respond. If people click on your username on a message board or elsewhere they will see the note in your profile and won’t become frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to contact you.

Take a few moments now to give thought to the disposition of your valuable research so that it is preserved for future generations in accordance with your wishes. I know I’m going to do so.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 9 April 2008, Vol. 11, No. 14


  1. This is such a great site for tips and knowledge. I am building a family search genealogy site for my family and this site has given me alot of info in just a few minutes. thank you, I will be back to read more of your articles. Definitely a great resources for genealogy information.
    Larry C.

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